I’ve clipped coupons, sorted through the sale ads, and made grocery lists for three different stores. I’ve played sudoku, browsed my social media, and started a new devotional, and I still have forty-five minutes before the school bell rings. I arrived at the front of the car line just after lunch time, two hours before the end of the school day, just in case my son needed me. Even as I type this, I feel the stares from people reading it later on. I’m slightly embarrassed, and I want you to understand why I’m doing this. I want you to know that I’m not a “helicopter-mom” in the least bit. In fact, I’m quite the opposite.
I taught both of my boys to read and write before they entered into Kindergarten. They learned how to do their own laundry, scrub toilets, and make grilled cheese before their fifth birthdays. I wanted my boys to become strong, independent, and problem-solving men one day, and I knew it was my job to teach them life skills. Small, daily tasks always took more time, because I would do them in four steps. First, I would explain to my children how something is done. Next, I would perform the task myself, while repeating my explanation. Then, I would undo it and tell one of my sons, “Okay, your turn,” and I would talk them through it again. Finally, I would undo it, and say, “This time, you do it without my help.” Sure, I could just load all of the dishes or peel a potato myself, and it would take me all of thirty seconds, but how would that benefit my kids’ futures? It would only make my present easier, and I’m not called to that kind of living.
I check the clock, and I still have thirty minutes before I see my son’s face. I wonder if the teacher is typing up a time log for me today, like she did on Monday. I worry that he’s moved his clip down to red for the umpteenth time this year. I check and recheck my email to see if she’s had a chance to respond yet, and then I wonder if she’s even gotten the chance to look over it at all. I sent it to her yesterday morning. You’d think she’d have read it by now, right? Now, I KNOW I’m being irrational. So, I take a deep breath. My breath cleansing only lasts a few seconds before my mind is drifting back to worry. It’s 2:04pm. Only twenty-six more minutes.
Idan started off just like any other baby. I nursed him, sang lullabies, and rocked him to sleep. I gently combed over his soft spot, washed between his chunky thigh folds, and buckled him into a rear-facing car seat. I did all of the same things for him as I had done for my first son, and I was exhausted by the time evening rolled around. He teethed and screamed when numbing gel wouldn’t do the trick. He rolled over, clapped, and squealed when tickled. He learned to sit, crawl, and walk on his own. He was the sweetest, poopiest, most normal baby ever, and I felt my motherhood was complete, and it was.
When Idan began to talk, I noticed that he was unlike any other child I had ever known. As his language skills increased, I began to find his dry humor and quirky mannerisms to be the most entertaining thing! His logical view on people and imagination was one that caught the attention of all our friends and family. He had a deep, monotone voice, and it only seemed to add points to the value of his words. His feelings got hurt easily, and I would shelter him from any situations that might have caused him emotional pain. He was so much like his big brother, but also very different in so many more ways.
Idan started school this year, and it was the most exciting, yet saddening day of my life, as any mother can understand. My youngest was away, and I had an empty house for 7 hours, but after a couple of days, I learned to love my alone time. I took naps, did laundry, grocery shopped, took naps, mowed the lawn, and also took naps. It was glorious. My days were carefree, and my house was spotless! After the first nine weeks of school, my son’s teacher got real with us Kindergarten parents. She eased us into the reality that our little angels had a spark or two of humanity in them. On his daily report sheet, she started writing little notes informing me of my son’s misbehavior. These didn’t alarm me, because I knew Idan sometimes didn’t like to cooperate. Every child fights against rules every once in a while. But, his minor misbehaviors turned into outbursts, and his outbursts turned into raging fits of anger. Who was this little boy? I had never known him! I wanted to advocate for his teacher by reinforcing discipline action at home, but I hated to be punishing him on a daily basis. I wanted to correct these inappropriate behaviors, but I didn’t want to taint his quality of life at the same time.
I scoured the Internet, read books written by Christian psychologists, watched parenting videos, and asked friends for advice. I changed my family’s routine, adjusted my son’s diet, and had pep talks with him every day before school. I told him that I believed in him, that he could make good choices, and that I loved him more than he could ever know. I hugged him tighter than he could handle, and willed my love into his brain when I kissed his forehead. I cupped his little face in my hands, and spoke encouragement into his eyes, then I watched him walk into his classroom, drove home, and waited. The bus pulled up to the house seven hours later, and children began to spill out through the doors. My heart raced, and I focused love onto my face as I saw my sweet little boy hop off the steps. He tossed his book bag onto the grass, did a ninja roll across the lawn, and landed in the coolest half-split dismount I had ever seen him do that day. I scooped up my little acrobat, sat him on my lap, and asked him about his day.
I was so sure that I had done everything right! I followed the schedule. I talked with him. I was understanding and encouraging. I gave him incentives. I had a flawless reward system. How could he have had a Red day again? What was I doing wrong? The very second that followed is the one that changed our lives forever. I pulled his puffy face into my chest, sat back, and began to rock back and forth on the porch swing. My oldest son leaned against my shoulder. It’s like he sensed that the end of my rope had burnt to ashes. That very moment was it for me. I tapped out, threw in the towel, washed my hands of it all. I released everything I had been trying to do, and whispered, “Something else is going on here.”
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Learn more about Autism, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Asperger Syndrome at autismspeaks.org
Embracing the Crazy,